Skip to main content

My advice to freshers...

So I started at the University of Sussex in 2008 and am about to go into third year. I intermitted for a year due to health reasons and just needing a break from university and then went back to finish my degree. Thought it might be worth sharing a few ideas that might help, so here goes...

  • Apply for your student loan on time - it's something I often forget/neglect to do but so important.

  • If the university offers you an option of paying for your accomodation either monthly or termly, and you're receiving a maintenance loan, choose the option to pay termly. This means that as your loan comes in, your rent will come out and you won't have to worry about it. Otherwise you will be left having to work out how much you're allowed to spend, or burying your head in the sand and being left without money later on.

  • When you open a student account at the bank they will offer and encourage you take the option of having an overdraft. This can be useful, should you run out of money or need to pay out for your housing deposit for the next year. A few hundred pounds should be enough, and this is something you should insist. If the money is there, as a student, chances are you will spend it. So many people take the option of having a £1000 overdraft and plan to use it for 'emergencies only' then end up maxing it out. When you finish uni you want to be able to focus on getting a job and getting your life sorted, the last thing you want is to have to pay off such a large amount of money. An overdraft isn't "free money" and you will have to pay it back.

  • Chances are your loan won't arrive as soon as you arrive at university. You have to register and then it will take a few days or a week for the loan to come through. With everything that goes on in freshers week it's a good idea to make sure you have saved some money to cover that time at least.

  • It's up to personal preference and what the university offers whether you end up in halls or a flat. Personally, I was in halls and shared a kitchen with 12 people. Just after we moved out they doubled the size of the kitchen - very frustrating. There was nothing to separate our part of the corridor from the other half, or the other floors. This meant that it was very easy to meet people. Some people get lucky in flats, but it seems that if you get put with 6 people and you just don't click with them this could prove difficult whereas in halls you have the easy option of mingling with everyone else.

  • If you are really not happy after a few weeks it may be worth talking to the residential team to see if you can transfer to different accomodation.

  • Call them, or facebook them, whatever - just contact them. They will miss you but also will inevitably worry and want to be reassured that you are getting on okay.

  • Going home too soon could make you feel more homesick. Give yourself at least a few weeks to settle in, though of course you can always get them to come to you - which also saves a bit of money!

  • If you're hungover: eat stodgy food and drink lots of water - you'll be fine. They get worse as you get older so appreciate that!

  • If you're not the sort of person that is so into drinking, stick to your guns and people should respect that. There are a lot things that go on at uni that do not involve drinking.

Your town
  • Take time to explore your town and try different places. My first year at uni was spent going to the main bars and clubs in Brighton, the chain bars along West Street basically. It was only when I started work and started going out with people from work that I realised how much more was out there.

  • Like I said before, university is not all about drinking. I love a good night but there's a lot of other things I enjoy and it took me to my second year to remember that. Comedy clubs, pub quizzes, theatres, open mic nights at pubs - these things are wonderful ways to spend an evening. Plus you will hopefully be a bit more fresh faced the next morning.

  • Go to class. If you miss a few fine, but even though you only need 40% to pass first year it's important you go. Don't forget why you went to uni in the first place. If you want to build up a bit of respect from your tutors by second year this is crucial.

  • That said, don't stress out too much about your work, especially in first year. This is your year to settle in, socially and academically. Also once something is handed in, let it go. Do not spend pointless time worrying. Do your best, and then afterwards get feedback from your tutors.

Saving Money
  • Booking trains in advance through thetrainline or whatever your National Rail provider is saves a lot of money, and is well worth doing. Alternatively, Megabus do cheap coaches and also offers for Virgin trains.You can also save a third off rail fares with a 16-25 railcard.

  • Get a Nectar card/Tesco/Boots clubcard, anything that will save you money at some point without a catch is worth doing.

  • If you do your shopping online, you can order things that would be too heavy if on the bus - economy size bottles of squash for example! If several of you do this together then this will save on delivery costs.

  • Student beans is a good website for saving money, with sections for different cities within the UK.

  • Consider which books will be worth keeping/necessary and which books you will only need for a short period of time. Particularly with English, if you're reading a novel a week - to buy each one may be both pricey and pointless. As soon as you get your reading list, hit up the library so you can shotgun all the books you need. Any books you will need to keep, it's worth looking at if your university has a bookshop and a secondhand section within it. Alternatively, Amazon do second hand books.

  • See if your university/city do weekly or monthly savers for the bus: this will save you a lot of money in the long run.

If you're struggling
  • I used to be cripplingly shy and found it very hard to adjust to being with a completely new group of people, but within a few weeks I came out of myself and was enjoying university life. The point there is that settling in doesn't come easily to everyone, and you shouldn't feel bad about that. You will settle in and get used to your new environment, it can just take time.

  • If you don't get on so well with the people in your accomodation/course don't forget there are any number of societies which you can join. It may seem like a scary move, and it may well be - but the people that set up and run these societies want people to come! So inevitably they will welcome you in, and you may just have a good time.

  • If you are having problems and get behind with your work, talk to your academic advisor or a tutor you feel like you can talk to. They are there for you and will be willing to help, so long as they know what is happening. Most universities also have student advisors in place for help with personal or academic worries.

  • The University of Sussex has a Psychological & Counselling services centre, providing one-on-one counselling and group sessions for different problems. Most universities will have a similar service and it's worth looking into this if need be. Getting help is nothing to be ashamed of and something that may be necessary, you have to look after yourself.

  • This is a step which should actually come before struggling. As soon as you get to University, register with your Doctors surgery there. How it works at Sussex is that if you haven't registered, you will then have to register & then wait 24 hours before being able to get an appointment. It's worth just registering so then you know it's sorted, even if you don't tend to have health problems.

If someone else is struggling...
  • If someone is quiet, it doesn't mean that they are boring/cold/aloof/arrogant etc, it may actually mean that they are shy and finding things difficult. Make the effort. Talk to them. They may just end up becoming a good friend.

Ultimately, the more you put into it the more you'll get out of it so look after yourself but crucially - get involved and have fun! :)


  1. Amy this is a great post :) wishing you all the best in your third year! Ellen xx


Post a Comment